Battle of Kobrin

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Battle of Kobryn
Part of the French invasion of Russia
Karta-skhema k stat'e <<Kobrin>>. Voennaia entsiklopediia Sytina (Sankt-Peterburg, 1911-1915).jpg
Theater of military operations [1]
Date27 July 1812
Location
Kobryn, Russian Empire (present-day Belarus)
Result Russian victory
Belligerents
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg  Russian Empire Flag of France (1794-1815).svg  France
Commanders and leaders
Alexander Tormasov Heinrich Christian Magnus von Klengel
Strength
16,000–18,000 men
130 guns
5,000 men
8 guns
Casualties and losses
77 killed
181 wounded
2,000 killed
2,300 captured

The Battle of Kobryn was a battle that took place on 27 July 1812 between the Russian and Saxon forces in the city of Kobryn at the initial stage of the French invasion of Russia. The battle was the first major victory of Russian forces in the Patriotic War of 1812.

Kingdom of Saxony former German state

The Kingdom of Saxony, lasting between 1806 and 1918, was an independent member of a number of historical confederacies in Napoleonic through post-Napoleonic Germany. The kingdom was formed from the Electorate of Saxony. From 1871 it was part of the German Empire. It became a Free state in the era of Weimar Republic in 1918 after the end of World War I and the abdication of King Frederick Augustus III of Saxony. Its capital was the city of Dresden, and its modern successor state is the Free State of Saxony.

Kobryn Place in Brest Region, Belarus

Kobryn is a city in the Brest Region of Belarus and the center of the Kobryn District. The city is located in the southwestern corner of Belarus where the Mukhavets River and Dnepr-Bug Canal meet. The city lies about 52 km east of the city of Brest. Kobryn is located at Latitude 52.12.58N and Longitude 24.21.59E. It is at an altitude of 485 feet. It is a station on the Brest – Homiel railway line. As of 1995, the population was around 51,500. Sometimes the name of the city is written as Kobrin which is a transliteration from Russian.

French invasion of Russia Napoleon Bonapartes attempted conquest of the Russian Empire

The French invasion of Russia, known in Russia as the Patriotic War of 1812 and in France as the Russian Campaign, began on 24 June 1812 when Napoleon's Grande Armée crossed the Neman River in an attempt to engage and defeat the Russian army. Napoleon hoped to compel Tsar Alexander I of Russia to cease trading with British merchants through proxies in an effort to pressure the United Kingdom to sue for peace. The official political aim of the campaign was to liberate Poland from the threat of Russia. Napoleon named the campaign the Second Polish War to gain favor with the Poles and provide a political pretext for his actions.

Contents

Background

On 24 June 1812 Napoleon invaded the Russian Empire on a broad front from Brest to the Baltic sea in the north. The main French forces crossed the Neman in Lithuania and acted against the 1st and 2nd Russian armies stationed there. 33,000-strong Austrian corps of Schwarzenberg crossed the Bug River in the south, who moved troops to Russian Empire due to alliance between Austrian Empire and Napoleon. Austria was compelled to participate in the French invasion of Russia as a French vassal, but gave its commander Schwarzenberg tacit instructions not to be zealous and not to move far from the borders.

Napoleon 18th/19th-century French monarch, military and political leader

Napoléon Bonaparte was a French statesman and military leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars. He was Emperor of the French as Napoleon I from 1804 until 1814 and again briefly in 1815 during the Hundred Days. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over much of continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. He is considered one of the greatest commanders in history, and his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. Napoleon's political and cultural legacy has endured as one of the most celebrated and controversial leaders in human history.

Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg Czech nobleman

Karl Philipp, Fürst zu Schwarzenberg was an Austrian field marshal.

Bug River major European river

The Bug River is a major river mostly located in Eastern Europe, which flows through three countries with a total length of 774 kilometres (481 mi).

Schwarzenberg was opposed by the 3rd Observational Army of Russian General of the Cavalry Tormasov, whose strength varies greatly in different documents. Historians count that Tormasov's army had 45,000 men, Clausewitz determines its number at 35,000 men, and Prince Vyazemsky (commander of the 15th Division as part of the Third Army) in his notes mentions about 25,000 combatants in the Third Army, 160 guns and garrisons placed in territories of modern-day Belarus and the north-west Ukraine, which probably also belonged to the Third Army. The Observational Army guarded the borders of the Russian Empire from Austria and the Duchy of Warsaw in modern territories of the south of Belarus and the north-west of Ukraine.

Alexander Tormasov Russian general

Count Alexander Petrovich Tormasov was a Russian cavalry general prominent during the Napoleonic Wars.

Carl von Clausewitz German-Prussian soldier and military theorist

Carl Philipp Gottfriedvon Clausewitz was a Prussian general and military theorist who stressed the "moral" and political aspects of war. His most notable work, Vom Kriege, was unfinished at his death. Clausewitz was a realist in many different senses and, while in some respects a romantic, also drew heavily on the rationalist ideas of the European Enlightenment.

Prince Vasily Vasilyevich Vyazemsky was a Russian military regimental and divisional commander during the French invasion of Russia. He was also general of the Imperial Russian Army.

With the outbreak of the war, the Austrians covered the right flank of Napoleon from the Russian Third Army, stationing the border garrisons along BrestKobrynPinsk line with a length of 170 kilometers.

Brest, Belarus Place in Brest Region, Belarus

Brest, formerly Brest-Litowsk, is a city in Belarus at the border with Poland opposite the Polish city of Terespol, where the Bug and Mukhavets rivers meet. It is the capital city of the Brest Region.

Pinsk Place in Brest Region, Belarus

Pinsk is a city in Belarus, in the Polesia region, traversed by the river Pina, at the confluence of the Pina and Pripyat rivers. The region was known as the Marsh of Pinsk. It lies south-west of Minsk. The population is about 138,202.

Initially, the case was limited to maneuvers, the Russians and Austrians watched each other without entering into fights. On 17 July, Tormasov received orders from War Minister Barclay de Tolly to act on the right flank of the French army, wedged into Russian territory by a deep wedge.

Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly Russian general

Prince Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly was a Baltic German Field Marshal and Minister of War of the Russian Empire during Napoleon's invasion in 1812 and War of the Sixth Coalition. Barclay implemented a number of reforms during this time that improved supply system in the army, doubled the number of army troops, and implemented new combat training principles. He was also the Governor-General of Finland.

The order successfully coincided with the rearrangement of troops in the enemy camp. Napoleon recalled the Austrians to the main direction, instead of them sending the Reynier's 7th Saxon corps (17,000 men). Napoleon mistakenly underestimated the strength of the Third Army, believing that the corps of Reynier could hold back the Russians before Chichagov's Danube Army will arrive to Tormasov from Moldova. The original plan of Napoleon meant a lightning campaign. It was planned to destroy the Western Russian armies in a general battle and force the tsar to ask for peace.

Jean Reynier French general

Jean Louis Ebénézer Reynier rose in rank to become a French army general officer during the French Revolutionary Wars. He led a division under Napoleon Bonaparte in the French Campaign in Egypt and Syria. During the Napoleonic Wars he continued to hold important combat commands, eventually leading an army corps during the Peninsular War in 1810-1811 and during the War of the Sixth Coalition in 1812-1813.

Pavel Chichagov Russian admiral

Pavel Vasilievich Chichagov or Tchichagov was a Russian military and naval commander of the Napoleonic Wars.

Tormasov attacked at a time when the Austrians had withdrawn their troops, and the Saxons had not yet taken a fully defensive line. According to the plan, the first goal was to capture Brest, and then Kobryn.

Tormasov's offensive plan

Tormasov selected 5 cavalry regiments (mostly dragoons) to protect the borders of Russian Empire from the Duchy of Warsaw, that was allied to Napoleon. Then he pulled the available forces to Kovel, dividing the army into 5 parts:

On 24 July, General Scherbatov occupied Brest, knocking out 2 enemy squadrons from the corps of Reynier. At the same time General Melissino on 25 July beat out group of Saxons from Pinsk in 170 kilometers from Brest. Reynier with the main forces was near Yanov, approximately in the middle between Kobryn and Pinsk, in a condition of some confusion, unable to determine the direction of the main blow of the Russians and their strength.

On 27 July, the main Russian forces (up to 18,000 soldiers, 130 guns) approached Kobryn. Tormasov came from the south, and the detachments of Lambert and Scherbatov came from the west. Kobryn was a small town with a population of about 2 thousand inhabitants in the south-west of modern Belarus, on the Mukhavets River (an eastern tributary of the Bug River).

Battle

Memorial plaque on the monument of the victory of Russian troops in Kobryn KobrinBattle-2.JPG
Memorial plaque on the monument of the victory of Russian troops in Kobryn

Kobryn was occupied by a 5,000-strong Saxon brigade commanded by Major General Klengel from the 22nd Infantry Division of the Reynier corps. Saxons expected Russians from Brest and took a position 2 kilometers from the city, placing the cavalry on the road, and the riflemen along the road. From the south, Saxons settled in the manor houses on the outskirts, blocking the entrance to the Tormasov's vanguard.

Lambert in the west early in the morning attacked the enemy with the forces of irregular cavalry, trying to entice the Saxons into the open field. Tormasov ordered General Chaplits to bypass Kobryn from the east with the vanguard, leaving a little cavalry to block the soldiers of Klengel, who had settled in the buildings on the southern outskirts. Lambert managed to bring down the Saxons' cover from the road, but they were entrenched in urban buildings, barring the way to the city from the west. When Chaplits broke with the 13th Jaeger Regiment in Kobryn from the east, Lambert sent two regiments of irregular cavalry to the northern road to the Pruzhany to cut off the Saxons' escape routes. Thus the brigade of Klengel was completely surrounded. The Saxons tried to bring down the Russian cover from the road to the Pruzhany, but were pushed back to Kobryn.

Meanwhile, at 9 o'clock in the morning, the main forces of the Russians came to Kobryn. Tormasov sent two more infantry regiments to Kobryn, the remaining regiments surrounded the town with a dense ring. In the town of wooden buildings Saxons had nowhere to gain a foothold. The Russian artillery easily shot any position, the city burned. Out of 630 city buildings, only 79 survived after the battle. Prince Vyazemsky wrote the impressions of the battle in the diary the next day:

All in flame, wives, girls in only shirts, children, all fleeing and seeking salvation; the battle in the fire, the rapid movement of troops, scattered enemy transporters, roaring and running cattle through the field, the dust eclipsed the sun, horror everywhere.

By noon the battle was over, the surviving Saxons led by General Klengel were driven into the half-ruined Kobryn castles (part of the gift of Catherine II to count Alexander Suvorov) and surrendered.

Aftermath

Monument to victory near Kobryn Kobryn. Pomnik.jpg
Monument to victory near Kobryn

According to the report of Tormasov, up to 2,000 Saxons were killed, 2 generals were captured, including Klengel himself, 76 officers and 2,382 lower ranks, 2 battalion banners, 2 standards and 8 guns were captured. The losses of the Russian army amounted to 77 people killed and 181 wounded.

The Russian Tsar generously noted the first major victory in the French invasion of Russia. Tormasov received the Order of St. George of the 2nd degree and 50 thousand rubles, count Lambert received a golden sword with the inscription "For Bravery", decorated with diamonds. Also the Order of St. George of the 4th degree was awarded to the commander of the 13th Jaeger Regiment, Major Izbashi. [2]

Two banners were captured in battle, the banner of the 1st battalion of the Saxon Royal Infantry Regiment (later known as the Saxon Leib Grenadier Regiment No. 100) and the banner of the Saxon Infantry Regiment of Nizemeisel, that was later dissolved. Both were kept in the Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Also there was stored one of the banners of the Ulan Regiment of General Clement.

On the day of the defeat of the Saxon brigade in Kobryn in the main direction, the 1st Russian army retreated from Napoleon forces to Smolensk after heavy rearguard battles near Vitebsk.

Reynier didn't reach 25 kilometers to Kobryn. Upon learning of the defeat of his brigade, he began to retreat north to Slonim, pursued by the detachments of Tormasov. Schwarzenberg with the consent of Napoleon turned to the help the 7th Corps of Reynier. Thus Tormasov's army pulled on itself a powerful Schwarzenberg's forces, weakened the French troops in the Moscow direction.

On 12 August the combined forces of Schwarzenberg and Reynier attacked under Gorodechno (slightly north of Kobryn) Tormasov's forces estimated by Prince Vyazemsky of 16,000 soldiers. The Russians lost up to 1,200 soldiers and by September retreated south to Lutsk, fortifying themselves on the eastern bank of the Styr River.

With the approach in mid-September 1812 of the Chichagov's Danube army Tormasov gained superiority over the Schwarzenberg and on 23 September went on the offensive.

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